Does my novel make me look fat?

Want an honest, helpful critique of your manuscript? Find a group of writers.

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Who, tell me, who in your personal life is going to point out the weaknesses in your novel? Who among them would not be afraid to hurt your feelings? If you’re looking for an honest, helpful critique of your manuscript, do not go to a family member and certainly not your spouse.

Weeks into my marriage, I asked my newbie husband, “Does this skirt make me look fat?”

“No,” he said, but then added, “Even if I thought it did, which it doesn’t, do you think I would tell you otherwise?”

No husband with any sense of self-preservation is going to say anything negative about your looks—or your novel. Neither will your kids, or your BFF, or that guy you buy organic lettuce from at the farmers market.

Now, if you have a female spouse—maybe. Females can be rip-your-heart-out honest, for your own good, mind you, because they love you. Maybe. But is she a writer, too? She can criticize but can she critique?

Get helpful input

You need a critique group, or a beta reader, or a manuscript critique pro, or a professor with a creative writing class—someone who knows about writing.

Sorry, copy editors generally do not critique manuscripts on setting, plot, or character development. I’m kind of like that person at the end of the car wash holding the squeegee and the shammy towel. No, wait. I’m a little more involved than that. How about a house inspector? I didn’t design or build your house, but I can walk through it and tell you if it’s up to code. (For details, check out I Spy Edits.)

Manuscript critiques will elevate your writing and improve your story. Don’t write in a bubble. That was probably the best advice I heard when I first started writing. When you are alone, wrapped up in your own writing world, you rule supreme. You are the awesome emperor of your writing universe. The emperor might believe he’s all decked out in a glorious, golden robe with tassels and sequins. But the emperor needs to hear it: Dude, you’re buck naked.

Get a reality check. Is your novel as good as you think it is? Is it ready for submission or self-publication? There’s only one way to find out: get an honest, helpful critique.


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